Barns and Castles in Connecticut

In the years I’ve known Rebecca, she’s never really done anything traditional. Starting her own nonprofit after grad school, moving around the country multiple times a year, dropping everything for a last minute trip to Kenya, the list goes on. That’s why it came as no surprise when we attended her very unique wedding in a beautiful barn one August evening up in Litchfield, Connecticut. Aside from the picturesque setting, she had small touches throughout the ceremony and reception that incorporated Nest – a green belt across her white dress, hand-painted napkins and handmade stationary as favors, all designed by Nest artisans in India.

After the ceremony, we spent the evening eating freshly made pizza (the brick oven was driven in on a truck!) with ingredients from local farms, catching up with old friends and dancing barefoot on the grass to a bluegrass trio.

The next day we went to a breakfast at the home where Rebecca and her family were staying – and we were absolutely blown away by this place. Called the “Litchfield Castle,” upon entering the grounds you’re transported to a different country and a different time period. It was hard to believe we were in America, in 2012, only two hours away from NYC. Just take a look at the photos.

 

See what I mean? To top it all off, Rebecca and her new husband took a vacation in one of my favorite places – Portugal! Now the happily married couple is back home and back in action as they try to make the world a better place. Congratulations to them both!

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FEED Guatemala Bag Launch at Lord & Taylor

Last week, I met Rebecca after work and we headed to Lord & Taylor for an epic moment in Nest history. We attended the launch party of the limited edition FEED Guatemala bags. FEED is an organization that donates a percentage of their sales to help fight child hunger in developing nations. Rebecca met the founders, Ellen and Lauren, at an event we threw at the Ralph Lauren Rugby store last summer, and their friendship evolved into a partnership where the FEED ladies agreed to create a limited edition line of bags that were to be handmade by the artisans Nest works with in Guatemala.

After a year of hard work and collaboration, these bags were finally produced and shipped to Lord & Taylor, where they are now being sold exclusively. Seeing our bags on display at this department store reminded me that it was that very trip to Guatemala in 2008 that transformed my own personal involvement with Nest into what it is today – needless to say, that trip changed my life.

I wear my FEED Guatemala bag every day now, and find any excuse to tell people the story behind it. I’m like a proud mother, gushing over the pattern and handiwork of the bag, and mostly over the label inside that reads, “Handmade by Nest Artisans in Guatemala,” with our logo and website stitched right into it. Yes, maybe I’m a little obsessed, but wouldn’t you be?


SURevolution Dinner Party

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a dinner party at the SURevolution showroom. Founder Marcella Echavarria has travelled all over the world and collected unique jewelry, bags, furniture, kitchenware and other sustainable goods from artisans in South America, Africa, India and more. Everything is handmade, and the beautiful showroom overlooking Little Italy was the perfect setting for our small gathering.

I first saw Tamara, the amazing interior designer who sits on our board, who I hadn’t seen in months. While we caught up, she told me all about a psychic she had been talking to, who had given her an interesting perspective on life, business and love. She mentioned how the psychic could feel the energy about the people around you and could tell just from reading your energy how they relate to you in a positive or negative way. As hesitant as I was to believe any of this, by the end of our conversation she had me taking down the psychic’s number and seriously considering calling her.

Then, we met a woman from Chile who drew portraits based on the psychic energy of a person.

Eventually, I was introduced to Anna, who is throwing a Yoga event next week. Anna is a wellness consultant who got her Yoga studio to agree to donate all proceeds of their upcoming health and wellness event to Nest.

I also met Katharine, who has her own line of beauty products that use Aragon oil from Morocco. She usually travels to Agadir to get the oil for her products, but after I tell her about Tim’s community in Tigmijou and the Aragon oil they produce, I suggest she start buying from them. She’s immediately interested, and I go home and introduce them via email, thrilled to make any excuse to reach out to Tim and feel a connection… to Morocco.

Rebecca makes a speech to all the guests and tells the story of Lolita, the loan recipient from India who fell prey to the loan shark after she broke her leg and couldn’t work to support her family following the death of her husband. Luckily, Nest was able to help her out of this situation and help Lolita create a new life for herself and her family.

As I was trying on some of Marcella’s beautiful gold plated leaf bracelets, I laughed as a woman from Columbia made fun of our board member Ian, joking that he looked just like Juanez, the Columbian pop star. Once again I found myself surrounded by fascinating people, amazing sustainable goods and the satisfaction of knowing we were all gathered together for a good cause.


How My Friends and Family Inspired Me When I Returned From Morocco

Adjusting back to the U.S. after our amazing journey to Morocco went more smoothly than anticipated. The transition was made easier by the enthusiasm my friends and family showed in listening to me go on and on about my trip, looking through hundreds of photos, and reading the in-depth recaps I posted on this site.

But I couldn’t have expected how much the people around me were about to surprise, overwhelm, shock and inspire me two weeks after my return. Remember that fundraiser we talked about doing for Rachida so she could rebuild her house and her loom that were lost in the fire? Well, that fundraiser went live on our website on May 3rd. I sent around an email to my friends and family, telling them about Rachida and what had happened, and asked them to throw in a little money towards rebuilding if they could.

A little more than 24 hours later, I was astounded by the generosity these people showed. By May 4th, we had raised enough money to rebuild Rachida’s home, and more than half of those funds came from my friends and family – my two amazing roommates and some of my favorite brides-to-be, my incredible mother, and even an old friend in St. Louis. Even a dear friend in danger of losing her job contributed. A few ex boyfriends even kicked in some cash – and donated very generous amounts! You never know who will come through and rally together when you believe in a wonderful cause that has genuinely touched all our lives.

Needless to say, I’m incredibly lucky to surround myself with these people every day, and they’ve certainly made the post-Moroccan transition much more bearable.

Morocco, Day 9 – Tigmijou

April 19 – It is a rough morning. We’re all feeling the effects of the night before, and Joya almost kills me when I open the window to light the room (to find the advil and antacids). We go upstairs to breakfast on the roof and scarf down croissants, yogurt, crepes and assorted pastries. Joya and Kate want to order five more rounds of coffee, but I need air. I go to stand at the railing where I’m looking out at the ocean. I spend about a half hour out there, enjoying the beauty of the scenery in front of me. I can’t remember when I last felt this peaceful. I try to etch this morning into my memory so I can revisit it for years to come.

I finally pull myself away from this scene to go with Rebecca, Kate, Joya and the boys to the souk to buy olives, fruits and nuts to give the women of TIgmijou – they want to serve us food when we visit, but they don’t have the means to provide enough food to our group of 14. I buy a package of bracelets to give out to the girls and young children of this village. We spend the rest of our morning walking on the beach, looking at the camels and horses around us, taking in a view of the “castle in the sand” Jimi Hendrix supposedly wrote the song after, Joya riding a horse on the beach and some seashell collecting, we sit down to an outdoor lunch of mixed salads and tea.

The road to Tigmijou is incredibly scenic, with rolling hills and wildflowers of red, yellow and purple. The village is small, with four little clusters of houses. Tim lives in a house on a hill, a little removed from the rest of the village. We see three teenage girls giggling at us as we walk up the path to his house. We can’t go inside because it seems as though his roof has fallen over in the week he’s been gone. We walk through a meadow to get to the house of the family we’re going to visit. Along the walk, we pass a stray donkey grazing in the meadow. We enter a hut, built in the same Moroccan style of homes and guest houses we’ve been seeing – a structure with an open courtyard in the middle. Upon peering into the home, we see two young children – a boy and a girl, giggling and laughing and running up to us, then bashfully running away when we wave and smile at them. We enter into the courtyard and introduce ourselves to the women, kissing them twice on each cheek. We peer into one dark room where a woman is sitting at her loom, already strung. She is rapidly weaving the water reeds through the loom. Hicham, Tim’s young artisan who we met at the craft fair, says hello to all of us and Tim explains that all these people are part of Hicham’s family. We peer into their bedroom, with no door and rugs laid out for them to sleep on. The next room is the storage room, filled with these magnificent, completed water reed bags. We sell them back in the U.S. as market bags. My mother will purchase four of these bags from Nest’s website after hearing this story.

We enter another room off the courtyard, removing our shoes first. We sit around a bench with cushions and the women bring us the olives and fruits we purchased in Essouria. They also bring us bread and olive oil. I’m on the far side of the room – most of the women are sitting at the other end of the room near Tim and Brian, the only Arabic speaking people in the group. One of the family members comes over and sits near me. She starts breaking the bread and motioning for me to eat. I take a bite and say “beneen,” one of the two Arabic words I’ve learned – meaning delicious. The little toddler girl walks into the room and bursts into giggles. Everyone is laughing and smiling at her. The woman next to me is also laughing, and we exchange a glance, which sends us into a whole new fit of laughter. She tells me to eat more and I obey. I point to a water reed bag sitting next to her and ask if she made it (using hand motions). She nods and smiles. A child’s laughter, food, art, these are all universally appreciated. I couldn’t verbally communicate with this woman, but we were able to carry out an entire conversation while eating in her home.

Tim goes around and tells us about each of the women, how they are all related, and explains that they have a wedding to go to that evening because one of the girls from their town is marrying a man from the next village. When we’re done, we all walk out of the room, slip back into our shoes, and the women lead us to another house with a loom in it. I give out bracelets as we pass little girls and teenagers on our walk through another field of wildflowers. We take a quick look at the loom, but our driver is getting angry that we’ve taken too long, and threatens to leave without us if we don’t get on the bus immediately. He actually begins removing our bags from the bus at one point. Moroccans make their own rules. We say goodbye to the women, apologizing for our abrupt departure, and as we pile onto the bus a group of small boys laugh and bully each other as they watch us. Again, behaviors that transcend languages and continents.